Have you noticed how obsessed little kids are with teeny, tiny things? I’m sure I am not alone in having a graveyard full of small, unidentified toys. This cake is an edible version inspired by those little treasures. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, there’s a bakery, Sweethaus, that sells cakes and candies. If this is the cake of choice for someone’s birthday, then we head to Sweethaus, where the kids choose old-school candies to bring home and decorate the top of this cake. Seeing them make their selections takes me back to spending my own twenty-five-cent pocket money on mixed lollies. On the morning of the party, I’ll make the Very Vanilla Cake, ice it, and then let the kids decorate it before the icing sets.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare pan. Make the batter for the Very Vanilla Cake according to directions below.
- Grease a 6 by 3-inch springform pan with butter, line the bottom and sides with parchment paper, and grease the paper.
- Add the lemon juice to the milk to sour it. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes or until curdled.
- In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Set aside.
- In another small bowl, use your fingers to work the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar. Remove any bits of pod that may have come off with the seeds. Set aside.
- Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and sift.
- Using an electric mixer with beaters or a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium speed and then gradually add the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on medium speed for another 4 minutes or until light in color and fluffy.
- Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
- With the mixer still on medium speed, gradually add the eggs. If the batter curdles, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the flour to bind it back together.
- On low speed, add the flour mixture and then the oil and milk; mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes. Cover the top of the cake with tinfoil after 30 minutes so the cake doesn’t take on too much color. When a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed, remove the cake from the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. Run a butter knife around the cake to gently release. Peel off the parchment paper from the sides. Invert the cake, peel off the bottom piece of parchment, and cool on a wire rack.
- Sift the confectioners’ sugar into a medium bowl. Pour in the cream and the vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Use an offset spatula or a butter knife to ice the top of the cake, or use the back of a dessert spoon to smear onto cupcakes.
- Using a toothpick, sparingly tint the icing with food coloring. Ice the cake. Before the icing sets, get the birthday boy or girl to decorate the cake with the candies.
Reprinted with permission from Simple Cake by Odette Williams, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Photography credit Nicole Franzen © 2019.